Fitness & Wellness

Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate

Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate

You don’t have to eat cardboard flavored biscuits to get healthy, there health benefits from eating dark chocolate. That’s right! Chocolate can be good for you. However, you must remember that the amount you eat and the type of chocolate makes a difference. Not all chocolate is created equally and the healthy kind is the dark chocolate. It has less or no milk added and far less sugar. Less milk means less interference with the absorption of the polyphenols found in the cocoa bean and more of it. Dark chocolate also has a better healthy fat profile.

The antioxidants in dark chocolate can provide protection from free radicals.

Free radicals cause damage to the cells and the more cell damage you have, the more potential there is for illness and aging. Dark chocolate has polyphenols and flavonoids, plus other antioxidants. It offers more than wine and green tea. However, you need a higher percentage of cacao/cocoa in and dark chocolate to get the benefits. Chocolate that’s 70% or higher is best. Usually amounts above 80% taste too bitter to enjoy.

Protect yourself from cancer with dark chocolate.

Again, the flavonoids and antioxidants come through to protect you. While the flavonoids can help keep your body healthier, it’s especially beneficial to help prevent colon cancer. Animal studies showed that consuming dark chocolate reduced the growth of cancer cells and their spread. Dark chocolate also reduced inflammation, oxidative stress and blocked the cancer cell growth.

Dark chocolate is heart healthy.

You get several heart healthy benefits from dark chocolate. It has the polyphenols that are antioxidants and is high in healthy fat. In fact, eating small amounts each day could potentially improve your cholesterol profile, reduce inflammation and decrease platelet activity and prevent clotting. It helps reduce blood pressure and increase blood flow to both the brain and heart, too. An 11-year study of 20,000 people showed that people with higher chocolate intake had a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease.

  • Dark chocolate consumption may improve blood flow to the brain and potentially lower the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. One study showed food like dark chocolate, high in flavonol, improved cognitive performance and brain function.
  • Dark chocolate consumption may reduce the risk of stroke, in addition to reducing the risk of heart disease, since chocolate in your diet could reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
  • One study showed subjects in a study improved visual acuity and contrast sensitivity after consuming dark chocolate, but the study was small, so more are needed to identify how chocolate could improve vision.
  • The flavonols in dark chocolate already touted for their many health benefits can help protect your skin from sun damage. It can improve hydration, boost blood flow to the skin and reduce skin roughness.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Why You Might Feel Shaky After A Workout

Why You Might Feel Shaky After A Workout

If you feel shaky after a workout, you might be concerned that something is wrong with you. In most cases, there’s no need for concern. It’s quite normal and can happen for a number of reasons. Even though most of those reasons shouldn’t alarm you needlessly, there’s no reason to ignore ones that indicate a more serious problem. Learning the common causes is important and can help you avoid the shakiness. When you feel shaky, note any other symptoms that occur at the same time.

Holding your muscles in one position too long or muscle fatigue can be the problem.

The body is amazing. It has built in fail safes, like motor units that are activated for powerful movements and provide additional force. Holding muscles in the same position for a long time will activate them and cause shaking, just like muscle fatigue does. Muscle fatigue is often the most common cause of shaking. In the case of fatigue, it’s the slowing of firing motor units—muscle fibers plus a motor neuron. The more you workout, the more that firing slows and that results in muscle fatigue and shaking. It means you’ve worked those muscles to their maximum potential.

If your blood sugar levels drop, it can cause shaking.

A grueling workout can burn tons of glucose, leaving levels depleted. That can cause hypoglycemia—low blood sugar. It can cause all types of problems besides shakiness, such as fatigue, headache, confusion, weakness, rapid heartbeat and even emotional changes. Some people are extremely irritable when they have low blood sugar and even may explode in anger, even though they aren’t sure why.

What you drink or don’t drink makes a difference.

Dehydration plays a role in whether you shake or not. It keeps the electrolyte balance that is necessary for proper use of muscles and nerves. Sweating too much and not rehydrating can be your problem if you’re shaking, especially if it’s accompanied by fatigue, headache, dizziness or dark urine. While a cup of coffee before a workout can boost your performance, you can get too much of a good thing. Excess caffeine can make you shake, cause rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea and even high blood pressure.

  • Eating a snack that’s a combination of protein and carbs, both a half hour before working out or right after you workout, can help solve this problem of shakiness. You also need to eat healthy meals post workout.
  • Make sure you carry a bottle of water with you at all times and sip on it throughout the workout. You only need sports drinks with electrolytes if you’re doing an intense work out for longer than an hour.
  • Allow your muscles to rest after a workout. Don’t try to do too much in a short time. When you’re doing strength training, give your muscles a minimum of one to two days of rest.
  • If you have problems with shakiness at other times besides working out, check with your health care specialist to ensure you don’t have a physical problem or health condition.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Fend Off Muscle Loss Due To Aging

Fend Off Muscle Loss Due To Aging

You may notice many older people have less muscle mass. That’s because of sarcopenia, which is muscle loss due to aging and related to a reduction in hormones. You can slow the process and even reverse it in some cases and many of my senior members at Next Level Fitness in Irvine, CA, prove it all the time. At one time, it was just accepted that you had to get older and more feeble as you age, but not today. While you can’t completely stop aging, you can slow and even reverse muscle loss with exercise and a healthy diet.

Even if you’ve never exercised, it’s not too late.

You might not be able to go to the gym and lift your own weight, half your weight or even ten pounds and running further than to the end of the driveway may be challenging, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change that. Each person is different, so you need a program of exercise that is created for your needs and level of fitness. You can start out slowly, like walking a little more and a little faster every day and lifting 5-pound weights twice a week, then build to heavier amounts and more reps as you improve.

Exercising regularly has more than just benefits for the muscles.

You’ll be protecting your body at the cellular level when you workout. Exercise causes the length of the telomeres to increase. Telomeres are at the end of chromosomes and protest them from damage, which protects your cells and allows longer replication with less damage. The more you exercise, the longer they are. Exercise increases circulation which helps your skin, heart and even ability to breathe better. A program of regular exercise literally keeps all cells in the body healthier and prevents muscle wasting.

Your diet plays a big role in the loss or gain of muscle mass.

If you don’t have all the building materials, you can’t build a house. The same is true of building your muscles. You need protein and other nutrients to do that. Seniors, particularly me, often develop anabolic resistance. That impedes the body’s ability to synthesize protein. Getting older means eating more protein. Consuming more lean poultry, fatty fish like salmon, plain yogurt and plant protein like beans is a healthier way to achieve that. For seniors, adding protein powder to smoothies is also an option.

  • Don’t compare your progress to anyone, even your younger self. You’ll see slower progress than you might have twenty to thirty years prior, especially if you’re a senior.
  • Always check with your health care professional first to see if working out is safe for you. Also let your personal trainer know if you have medical issues, so he or she can adjust the workout.
  • Make sure your program is varied. You need flexibility, endurance, balance and strength training. That ensures you a much safer exercise program and a healthier body.
  • Try HIIT—High-intensity interval training. It can get you back into shape faster and only requires you alternate intensity. Any exercise can be used. Just do it at a high intensity level and drop down to a moderate recovery level for the same amount of time or longer, then back up to high intensity.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Can Foods Make You Look Younger?

Can Foods Make You Look Younger?

You are what you eat and if you want to look younger and be the best version of yourself, there are foods that can help you do it. Foods contain not only nutrients for building healthy looking skin a more youthful appearance, but also antioxidants that protect each cell from free radicals. Free radicals cause cell damage and death and the more damage and death that occurs, the more potential for serious conditions, aging and even death.

Start with healthy fat.

Don’t be alarmed, you need fat to survive. Three anti-aging foods are extra virgin olive oil, fatty fish and avocados. Not only does olive oil lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease and cancer, it also helps your skin look younger. It may be the anti-inflammatory properties that protect the skin from sun damage and aids in retaining elasticity. Fatty fish contains long chain omega-3 fatty acids and has anti-inflammatory properties, plus aids in preventing sun damage. It has an antioxidant called astaxanthin that improves hydration and elasticity. Eating avocados also prevents damage from the sun and fight inflammation. It protects the skins DNA.

Eat those veggies for beautiful skin.

You need the building blocks to have beautiful skin and vegetables are loaded with nutrients. They contain antioxidants, so besides helping your skin, can lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and cataracts. Yellow, red and orange normally are loaded with beta-carotene. It fights sun damage and free radicals that age skin. Think pumpkin, sweet potatoes and carrots as good sources. Any vegetable that’s high in vitamin C is a great antioxidant and good for promoting the production of collagen. These include red bell peppers, tomatoes and broccoli.

Spice up your meals and take years off your appearance.

Herbs and spices can add flavor and nutrients to every meal without adding extra calories. Cinnamon is one of those. It helps boost the production of collagen that causes the skin to be firm and elastic. Capsaicin, the substance that makes chili peppers hot, can also make you hotter looking by lowering the potential for age-related skin cell changes. Ginger is also anti-inflammatory and can aid in the prevention of age spots.

  • You’ll save money and even your skin when you make your own bone broth. It’s high in collagen and is known to help reduce wrinkles and improve elasticity.
  • If you want to reduce the depth of wrinkles, one study noted how. A study following women who ate foods high in lycopene, such as tomatoes, had a significant decrease in the depth of wrinkles in just 15 weeks.
  • Have you ever had pomegranate juice or eaten their seeds? They’re rich in antioxidants that protect the skin and may even aid in repairing skin damage.
  • A tasty treat that may be forbidden in large amounts, is good for your skin in small amounts. That’s dark chocolate or cocoa. The dark chocolate with high flavanol content may improve smoothness, thickness and skin hydration.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Are There Workouts To Get Faster?

Are There Workouts To Get Faster?

If you want to take seconds of your running time, your natural inclination is to run more. However, there are other things you can do to improve your performance when it comes to running. There are workouts to get faster and ways to improve your overall fitness that will cut seconds to minutes off your time. Building power and improving explosive movements help you when you push off to start the run. That ultimately improves your stride, making each step more powerful and faster than you thought possible.

It’s all about training with explosive moves.

Adding exercises to your workout that focus on explosive moves can help. These moves can improve run times. Plyometrics— exercises that focus on the rapid contraction and stretching of muscles to improve power, such as jumping—can change strength into speed that has explosive power. It makes you run faster by allowing you to cover more ground with each strike of the foot, making sure you have full extension with each step. It adds that extra something to your committed run.

When you run, your muscles work like a stretched rubber band and plyometrics help you improve that.

When you force a muscle to stretch involuntarily, it contracts with even greater force. If you’ve ever shot rubber bands at anyone, you know that the further you pull them before releasing them, the further they go when you release. The more speed at release, too. Stretching your muscles to their farthest also has the same effect. They push you further, faster. To accomplish this involuntary reaction to the stretch, it has to be done in seconds. That allows the body to use the accumulated energy from the shock for the return action. It’s two-tenths of a second, the amount of time it takes to step off a box, touch and jump back up again.

Every exercise that requires you to jump is plyometric.

Start with a jump from a raised platform, like a box, with your toes at the edge. Step out, drop down and hit the ground then jump straight up again. Land as softly as possible. You don’t have to do many reps, six to eight is enough. You can use low hurdles, a little less than a foot high, placed about three feet from each other. Get into a quarter-squat position jump the first, touching the ground as little as possible and then do the next. Go as fast as possible.

  • Ankle jumps can help build muscle and improve speed. Stand straight, then bend your knees slightly and jump straight up. As you jump, pull the front of your foot up with toes going toward your ankles. Do six to eight repetitions.
  • Try a box jump, but this time jump onto the box, then step backward into starting position, squat slightly and jump again.
  • Loosen your hip flexors to get more power. Doing stretches that help boost your range of motion can prevent tightness that hinders speed.
  • If your goal is to improve your speed, our trainers at Next Level Fitness can create a program that will help you do it.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Does Using A Waist Trainer Help?

Does Using A Waist Trainer Help?

Have you read about a waist trainer and thought it looked like a no effort option to get a smaller waist? Maybe you didn’t even know exactly what one was. A waist trainer squeezes your midsection and is supposed to train your waist to an hour glass figure. Think corset. You know those antiquated undergarments that cinched your waist to its tiniest. It’s not exactly as easy as it may seem on the surface. In fact, you’re far better off doing it permanently with exercise and diet.

There are waist cinchers and waist trainers.

What’s the difference and which is better. Primarily, the difference is the fabric from which they’re made and how often you’ll wear it. Waist cinchers are normally more constrictive and used for those special occasions when you want to look your best. They’re temporary and more like the corset of days of old. Trainers are more comfortable and can be worn every day without a great deal of discomfort. It can be made tighter as your body adjusts to it.

There a few small benefits from a waist trainer.

You’ll have more of an hour glass figure when you wear it, but that effect is temporary and quickly disappears when you aren’t. It’s tight and warms the area, so you’re bound to sweat around the waist. You won’t lose fat, just water and when you take it off, you go back to your original dimensions. Just like wearing skin tight jeans, since it’s tighter around your waist, you might eat less. After giving birth, there’s some evidence that waist trainers can help women return to their original waistline.

Waist trainers don’t come without some problems, either.

Waist trainers can actually help your posture, unless you use it too often and depend on it, then it doesn’t allow the core strength to build, weakening them and leading to worse posture. If it’s too tight, it can reduce your lung capacity. The reduction can be as little as 30% to as much as 60%. Over time, it can lead to fluid build-up and even cause a problem with your lymphatic system. It can lead to acid reflux with the pressure forcing acid to back up and make existing acid reflux or GERD problems worse.

  • A waist trainer can squeeze your organs together unnaturally and even change the position of the organs and how they function. It can cause rib fractures, organ damage and lowered muscle strength.
  • If you use a waist trainer, make it a temporary use and do it in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Don’t wear it when you exercise. You’ll get a better workout without it, since it restricts how you move.
  • Another reason not to wear a waist trainer during a workout is that it makes breathing more difficult. If you can’t breathe as well, you won’t be able to go the extra mile to maximize your workout benefit.
  • The only waist trainer we recognize at Next Level Fitness that really works are personal trainers that offer programs to help you narrow your waist, lose weight, build muscle and get healthier.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


How Often Should You Have Leg Day?

How Often Should You Have Leg Day?

At Next Level Fitness in Irvine, CA, we devise training schedules and workouts based on individual needs. In some cases, we create workouts that use full body workouts, other times, we create those that break down the workouts to various parts of the body. When you do isolation exercises, leg day seems to be the hardest for everyone and there’s good reason why. It’s working the largest muscle groups. That takes a lot of energy and means you’ll have more micro tears that create soreness. Those tears need to heal before doing the next round of exercises on those muscle groups.

How you’re training makes a difference, too.

If you’re doing intense training, with high volume reps and heavier weights, do training just once a week. For those who aren’t working as intensely, aiming for two days a week is important. You need to make sure you give your muscles time to heal between workouts. That can be anywhere from 48 to 72 hours. Most people tend to workout legs twice a week and use squats, lunges and leg extensions in their leg workout.

Ask yourself how you feel.

It’s normal to have some soreness. It comes with working muscles in a way they’re not accustomed. You can, however, have unbearable pain and that’s quite different. If pain comes with joint discomfort, swelling or immediate pain, you might have an injury. There’s also delayed onset muscle soreness—DOMS–which occurs a few days later and is from trying to do too much too soon. Listen to your body. Everyone has aches and pains from working out, but it shouldn’t be so unbearable you can’t walk.

Training causes stress on the body, especially if you’ve worked hard.

When working legs, larger muscles, a lot of things affect how frequently you workout. It’s all about how quickly you can recover. If you’re older, your ability to recover may be slower. The number of workouts you do each week also is based on your goal. Do you want to build strength? Build for competition? Are you an athlete? Some people think that isolation exercises you combine during aren’t appropriate for some types athletes that require the body needs to work more synergistically.

  • Don’t forget to warm up and cool down. Part of the problems with leg day come more from lack of muscle warming or cooling down after a workout. Make sure it’s part of your program.
  • Make sure you’re adequately hydrated. If you feel sore an achy, wash it away by drinking water. It helps muscles heal by getting nutrients to your muscles. Walking or swimming later or the next day can help stimulate circulation and muscle healing.
  • Focusing on total body workouts will put less stress on the legs and still get them in shape. Once you’ve built muscle tissue, switching to isolation exercises for the legs can sculpt them without as much pain.
  • If you still have a lot of pain after two days, give it one more day of rest to let your muscles heal. Working out the muscles too quickly can be more damaging than not working out at all. It prevents the muscles from healing.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Saturated Vs Unsaturated Fat: What's The Difference?

Saturated Vs Unsaturated Fat: What’s The Difference?

At Next Level Fitness in Irvine, CA, we help you with every aspect of fitness. Fitness through exercise is only one part of our service. We offer help in all areas of health, wellness and making lifestyle changes to achieve those goals. Learning to eat healthy is just as important as having a regular workout schedule. In fact, a healthy body starts in the kitchen. Identifying the difference between saturated and unsaturated fat and which is healthier can help guide you toward a healthier lifestyle.

What is the difference between unsaturated and saturated fat?

There are four types of fat, saturated, unsaturated, monounsaturated and transfats. Transfats are bad for you. That’s one point where everyone agrees. All fat is a combination of carbon and hydrogen. The difference in these various types of fat is how they are bonded with hydrogen. It makes a difference whether they’re solid or liquid at room temperature. Saturated fat tends to be solid at room temperature and unsaturated fat tends to be liquid. Most transfats are manmade with a process that adds extra hydrogen atoms to oils to extend shelf life.

Which type of fat is healthier.

Saturated fat has been given a bad reputation, but a review in 2019 showed that it might not deserve it. It showed that there was no significant improvement in health or reduction of heart disease by reducing saturated fat. Trans fats have been proven detrimental to health and do increase the risk of heart disease. Cell membranes contain 50% saturated fat. Saturated fat is also necessary for the body to use calcium. Saturated fat protects the liver from alcohol and boosts the immune system. Unsaturated fat is proven to help prevent heart disease. It helps lower inflammation, which can prevent a number of conditions. Until more is known, nutritionists and scientists recommend unsaturated fat over saturated fat.

Do you need any fat in your diet?

Fats are important to the body, not only because they provide a great deal of energy, but also because they’re necessary for many bodily functions. You need fat to help absorb fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A. Fat is necessary for building cell membranes and important for a healthy nervous system. Inflammation, a process that protects the body from outside invaders or contaminants, requires fat and so does clotting blood. Fats help produce hormones and hormones are the messengers that tell your body how to function properly. Adding healthy fat to your diet is important.

  • It isn’t necessary to give up all saturated fat. There are multiple sources. For instance, give up ice cream or fatty cuts of meat, but leave in coconut oil, a source of medium-chain triglycerides—MCT.
  • Often the food containing the saturated oil is more suspect than the oil itself. Processed meat, such as sausage, bacon or bologna or packaged pastry, cracker, cookies and chips have other ingredients that are bad for your health.
  • While saturated fat does have health benefits, you’ll also get benefits from switching some to unsaturated fat, such as olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and fatty fish like salmon.
  • There are two types of unsaturated fat, both performing services for the body. Monounsaturated fat helps control blood sugar and is found in food like olive oil and avocado. Polyunsaturated help lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and perform other functions. It’s found in walnuts and flaxseed oil.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Are Home Cardio Workouts Effective?

Are Home Cardio Workouts Effective?

If you’re like many people, you go to the gym three times a week, but is that all you really need to be fit? It all depends on your goals. Do you want to lose weight? Is building more muscle your goal? There’s a lot to be said for home cardio workouts as a supplement to regular training. In fact, a personal trainer can help you develop a workout plan that addresses your goals for those days you don’t come to the gym.

Are you working out hard with weights to build muscle tissue?

You need all types of training, strength, cardio, flexibility and balance. You can use the gym for strength training, flexibility training and sometimes cardio workouts, but on your days off, give those muscles a rest. That doesn’t mean you have to sit in a chair and do nothing. In fact, some mild cardio workouts will make you feel better and heal your muscles faster by boosting circulation. Just walking is a great exercise if you’re sore. Riding a bike is another option that works. Always have one day when you completely rest to recover.

Is melting away fat a goal.

To melt fat, you need both strength training and cardio. Both can burn tons of calories, but strength training helps build and maintain muscle tissue. The more muscle tissue you have the higher your metabolism. Dancing, jumping jacks, jumping rope and running in up and down stairs are just a few at home moves that can help boost the calorie burning process.

Any type of workout is good, no matter where you get it.

Whether you workout at the gym or at home, just getting exercise is important. One of the benefits of the gym is that you get the combination of exercises to ensure you get a full body workout and meet your goals faster. Consider taking a small group session or boot camps to get started. Both are quite affordable and can give you a wealth of experience and workouts, so if you need, you have the resources and knowledge to workout at home. Group sessions can also be a lot of fun.

  • Boost the effectiveness of your workout by varying your intensity. Alternate between top intensity for a few minutes or seconds, depending on your fitness level and recovery or moderate pace for the same amount of time. It’s called high intensity interval training and can be used with any exercise.
  • You don’t have to do thirty minutes or more straight through when you do cardio at home. Studies show that three ten minute sessions throughout the day are as effective as a 30-minute session.
  • Take a break from the computer or even TV watching and get up and jog in place for a few minutes. See if you can do it through two commercial breaks if you’re watching TV. Studies show that getting up and moving for five minutes every hour or so can help lock in the health benefits of working out.
  • If you want to opt for a more rigorous home workout, consider burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks and squat jumps.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness


Diet Without Salt

Diet Without Salt

People overweight and those with high blood pressure are often given a diet without salt. Studies all agree that the average American diet is contains too much sodium. The chemical name for salt is sodium chloride, and it’s one of the leading causes of too much sodium that can lead to stroke and heart disease. While most people think that adding salt is the problem, the real problem comes from packaged food and those that are ready to heat and serve. That’s why reading the label is important. However, you need some sodium intake and too little can also cause problems.

What sodium does to your body.

You need some sodium to maintain nerve and muscle function and to maintain and adequate amount of water in and around the cells. Too much, however, is unhealthy. It pulls water into the blood stream, attracting it and increasing not only blood volume, but also blood pressure. That makes the heart work hard, forcing blood through arteries and ultimately damaging them and organs. Increasing blood pressure can occur naturally as people age, so lowering the sodium intake is even more important as you get older.

A low or no salt diet is one way to lower your sodium intake.

Besides hiding the salt shaker when you cook or you eat, there are other things you can do to lower your sodium intake. Read labels to find out how much sodium food contains. Eat more whole foods and fewer prepared ones. Herbs and spices can add more flavor than the salt shaker ever did, consider those as alternatives. You can rinse off the liquid of beans and other vegetables to lower their sodium count.

You need some salt in your diet.

Studies show that a low or no salt diet might actually exacerbate the potential for heart attack or stroke. It also can increase the risk of insulin resistance that leads to diabetes and raise bad cholesterol levels. A few studies show that it can increase the risk of death in both type 1 and 2 diabetics. So what’s the answer? Rather than a no salt diet, one with a moderate intake is better. Limiting your sodium intake to about a teaspoon a day, or 2300 milligrams is about right, but always consult your health care professional.

  • You’ll probably lose weight on a low salt or sodium diet. That’s because many pastries, high calorie foods and processed foods are high in sodium, lowering your caloric intake.
  • Be aware that salad dressing and ketchup also contain high amounts of sodium. If you eat in restaurants, opt for vinegar and oil.
  • 400 milligrams of sodium are in one gram of salt. Adults require approximately 2300 milligrams of sodium, so about six grams of salt.
  • Just one hamburger or a slice of pizza can contain approximately 1500 milligrams of salt. Foods that contain the most sodium include frozen burritos, pizza, salted nuts, canned main dishes like ravioli and canned beans with salt added.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness